SF Drag Legend Heklina Has Died
By Thomas Hughes, Bay City News
The San Francisco nightlife community and others reacted to the sudden death of longtime drag performer Heklina, 55, whose death in London, England was first reported on social media late Monday.
Heklina, whose legal name was Stefan Grygelko, according to state court documents, was performing for several weeks at London’s Soho Theatre with friend Peaches Christ, also known as Joshua Grannell.
London’s Metropolitan Police were called by the London Ambulance Service at 9:47 a.m. local time Monday to a residence at Soho Square for a report of an unresponsive person, who was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a police spokesperson.
The death is being treated as “unexpected” and is under investigation. An autopsy has not yet been completed to determine the cause of death as of Wednesday morning.
“I am shocked and horrified to bring this news to you,” Grannell wrote on his Facebook and Twitter accounts Monday.
“I am living in a real-life nightmare so forgive me if I don’t have all the answers just now. This morning, in London, England I went to collect my dear friend Heklina, who is costarring with me in a Mommie Queerest show here, and found her dead…Heklina is not just my best friend, but a beloved icon of our community.”
In addition to several film and TV appearances, Heklina was well-known in the San Francisco LGBTQ+ community for starting the Trannyshack live show, performing with Golden Girls Live, and opening Oasis Nightclub in San Francisco, which business partner D’Arcy Drollinger took over in 2019, according to a post from Drollinger on Oasis’ website.
“Heklina’s passing is a devastating blow to the community,” Drollinger said in a statement on Facebook.
“Personally, I am heartbroken. I have known Heklina for 34 years. Opening the Oasis was a crowning achievement we shared, after performing for so many years in other people’s venues, to create our own space was a dream neither of us believed we could do and yet we did it together.”
A statement from Golden Girls Live on Facebook on Tuesday said in part, “Rest easy, and from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being a friend.”
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So shocking and sad to hear about the loss of Heklina, a drag legend, brilliant performer and trailblazing community icon. My condolences and love goes out to all of Heklina’s friends, family, and loved ones, and the entire LGBTQ and drag communities.
— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) April 3, 2023
Heklina will always be the definition of punk rock ferocity. A trailblazing drag artist who curated nightlife for those searching for a place and an outspoken provocateur who pushed the envelope in the face of a rigid society, her loss is felt so, so deeply. Truly devastating.
— Michael Varrati (@MichaelVarrati) April 3, 2023
Breaking News: Reported by Peaches Christ on Facebook, SF drag impresaria Heklina has died suddenly in London where she was appearing in Mommie Queerest. She co-founded the drag venue Oasis and mentored countless up and coming queens. Very sad. https://t.co/VihWjw3VBk
— Scott Shafer (@scottshafer) April 3, 2023